Review: ‘Peanuts 1960’s Collection’ DVD
I’ll be honest and tell you that I am in the minority who felt that [[[Peanuts]]] stopped being funny after 1972 and should have been retired long before Charles M. Schulz’s death. All its charm and whimsy had been drained out of it as witnessed by the 1970s material that has been reprinted since his passing. The world had changed and their innocent worldview ceased to feel at all relevant. But once Schulz found his characters and voice, the strip was brilliant for quite some time.
By 1965, Charles Schulz’s Peanuts had grown to become one of the most popular comic strips launched since the end of World War II if not the 20th Century. It made perfect sense that the characters would eventually find their way onto television. They were first licensed for use as pitchmen for Ford in 1961 and appeared in black and white commercials animated by Bill Meléndez. When Lee Mendelson tried to make a documentary on Schulz in 1963, he hired Meléndez to create a short segment while hiring Vince Guaraldi for the score. The proposed show never sold but sowed the seeds for what came soon after.
As we know today, that first holiday special, was something unique and heartwarming from Guaraldi’s amazing score to the characters being funny and poignant. While the holiday-themed specials have become television perennials, several of the others have not achieved the same attention.
That oversight is rectified in the Peanuts 1960’s Collection
, coming Tuesday from Warner Home Video. Those first six half-hour cartoons which set the standard for animated specials thereafter, are collected on two discs. In addition to [[[A Charlie Brown Christmas]]], there’s also [[[Charlie Brown’s All-Stars]]], [[[It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown]]], [[[You’re in Love, Charlie Brown]]], [[[He’s your Dog Charlie Brown]]], and [[[It was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown]]].
The Christmas and Halloween specials continue to work well because they
approach each event in fresh ways. The characters are true to their
comic strip personas and the voice casting was superb. Interestingly,
CBS wasn’t so certain the show was any good, fighting with the producer
over the lack of a laugh track and concerned that Linus’ recitation of
Jesus’ birth might be offensive. When the critics raved and the
December 9, 1965 broadcast achieved a 50% rating, the complaints
stopped. As a result, some 30 specials and four animated feature films
were created, all trying to recapture the charm of the original source
The results, as seen here, are uneven. [[[All-Stars]]]
was all about the team’s lack of success at baseball and felt
lightweight with an ending too similar to the Christmas special and [[[He’s Your Dog]]] tried too hard to make Snoopy to be the bad guy when he was being true to himself. The best of the bunch is [[[Short Summer]]] since
everyone gets something to do and the narrative structure allowed
differing points of view to keep the story interesting. All six are
accompanied by Guaraldi’s jazz scores which helped separate the
animated fare from all other shows at the time, both live-action and
animated. It perfectly fit the characters and stories.
cartoons are all that was produced in the half decade, but captured the
characters at their best, before Snoopy totally eclipsed his owner and
the arrival of Woodstock who helped shift the focus away from the kids
for far-too long stretches. These six capture the end of an era.
restoration of the six specials is pretty clean although far from
perfect. The edits that removed the Coca-Cola sponsorship from the
Christmas special remains missing which is a shame from a historic
While previous sets, including last year’s edition, contained the wonderful “A Christmas Miracle: The Making of A Charlie Brown Christmas“,
this set only has one extra: a thoughtful and living tribute, “Vince
Guaraldi: The Maestro of Menlo Park”. It’s a great profile but the
other featurettes from other editions could have made this the must
have version of the cartoons to own.
I'll be honest and tell you that I am in the minority who felt that Peanuts stopped being funny after 1972 and should have been retired long before Charles M. Schulz's death.Bob, I have to disagree with you. And not just because you'd have had Peanuts retired before I was born. :)I think the strip coasted in the 80s, true. When you compare that period to the first seven or eight volumes of the Fantagraphics collections, the spark isn't quite there. That's also the point where the look of the characters stopped evolving; there are distinct differences between the look of the characters until that point.However, when Schulz changed the focus of the strip in the 90s to Rerun, I thought Peanuts found its voice again. Rerun having to navigate nursery school and kindergarten was hilarious. Rerun was flat-out mental. Rerun also accounted for what I think are two of the most emotionally affecting strips of the series. One has Rerun in an art museum; while everyone else is looking at a Matisse, Rerun looks at a painting of Mutts's Earl. The other is the final kick-the-football strip, which has Lucy delegating the football holding duties to her youngest brother, and ends with Rerun's cryptic "You'll never know."The emphasis on Rerun in the final years altered the character dynamics drastically. Charlie Brown was no longer always the loser; he became, in many ways, Rerun's defender and the voice of reason. Witness the Joe Agate story, where Charlie Brown has to put his marbles skills to the test against a hustler. Rerun's presence allowed Charlie Brown and the other characters to grow up.It's still going to be a few years until Fantagraphics gets to the Rerun era of Peanuts, and that's going to lead to a few years of generic Peanuts stories. But when they get there, we'll have the Peanuts renaissance.